Gilmore says issues still to be addressed on water charges

Cabinet fails to agree on deal as householders to face annual bill of €240

The annual standing charge for water will be €50 per house, or less, with the average yearly bill expected to come in below €300, The Irish Times has learned After years of austerity, water charges are the last big ticket item of painful adjustment

The annual standing charge for water will be €50 per house, or less, with the average yearly bill expected to come in below €300, The Irish Times has learned After years of austerity, water charges are the last big ticket item of painful adjustment

Wed, Apr 16, 2014, 18:14

The Cabinet finished its special meeting on water charges this morning without reaching agreement.

Minister for Environment Phil Hogan will work on the proposals and come back with updated plans at the next Cabinet after the Easter break.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the Government still needs to address a number of issues before a final decision is reached. “I think it’s important that we get the decision right. This is obviously a very major decision that the Government has to make,” Mr Gilmore said in Dublin.

“There are issues that clearly have to be addressed before a decision is made. And they include issues around ability to pay, issues around what happens in the case of households that will be metered because clearly the metering will not be completed until the end of the year,” he added.

He also hit out at leaks to the media about the potential extent of water charges. “I think it’s never helpful that issues that have to be discussed by the Government are trawled in the media in advance.”

The Labour Party earlier indicated it would not sign off on a final plan for water charges at the meeting. Sources within the Labour Party said there was “acute dissatisfaction within the party at what is seen as an attempt by Fine Gael to railroad the charges through Cabinet today.

This has been cast by Labour figures as “the most serious disagreement yet” between the parties.

Another Labour source said Fine Gael has not thought the proposal through. “The thing is half-baked, they have not thought through details of key issues like metering, standing charge, ability to pay, pensioners, conservation. It would not survive public scrutiny if left out in its current form.”

The source said Fine Gael has been blinded “to a lack of detail on critical issues”.

The talks this morning follow a long discussion at Cabinet yesterday on a perceived sense of drift within the Government, which has been on the back foot over several contentious issues since the start of the year.

Speaking in the Dáil after the Cabinet meeting,Taoiseach Enda Kenny suggested an average annual water charge of €240. The Government proposals would also include an annual standing charge of less than €50.

There was no clarity this morning on the specific concerns Labour has with the approach to charges expected to be outlined by Mr Hogan.

However, a Labour spokeswoman said the approach favoured by Mr Hogan had not been passed through the Economic Management Council, the four member economic committee at the heart of Government which comprises Mr Kenny, Mr Gilmore, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin.